When I was in high school, my favorite pair of jeans (ever) were stolen from the locker room during a soccer game. And once, I lost an earring – one with great sentimental value – never to be found again. Both were very upsetting to me. I want my kids to be prepared for upsetting things to happen to them too, so sometimes I take their favorite things and throw them away… because they have to learn about disappointment.
Another time, I ran out of gas. It was long before cell phones, and I was in a rural area, so I had to walk for help. I want my kids to be prepared for that too. So we periodically drive into the middle of nowhere, park the car, and have everyone walk back to civilization. We don’t pack water either, because they might get caught without it one day, and they need to learn what it’s like.
The past few years I’ve had some health issues that have resulted in three different surgeries. I feel my kids need to learn what that’s like too (it could happen to them someday!) so I periodically arrange to get them beds in the local ER, so they can hang out and get the experience first hand.
I once had a verbally abusive boyfriend. He liked to tell me how ugly I was, how much he hated my hair, and why I needed to lose weight. I had a mean and angry boss once, too. She was the kind of person who wasn’t content to just be miserable by herself, so she shared her misery with everyone around her. Both made me feel terrible about myself. I know my kids could encounter people like this one day too, so I make sure to insult them from time to time so they’ll learn how to deal with it.
Does any of this sound…. illogical… to you?
That is exactly how I feel every time I hear the familiar adage that states that, “kids need to hear the word ‘no’.” Experts and parents alike worry that they’ll become spoiled and entitled if they’re not told no often enough. We shouldn’t “give in” to too many of their wishes because life is going to be full of rejection, and they need to get used to it now.
The logic is lost on me. Purposely doing something unpleasant because they may experience the same unpleasant thing in the future makes no kind of logical sense to me.
I choose to focus on joy. I choose to say, “YES.” Yes to what, you ask? Yes to anything and everything I possibly can!
Yes to cupcakes for breakfast.
Yes to jumping in mud puddles.
Yes to wearing pajamas to the store.
I just say yes. I want their lives to be as rich and as full and as interesting as I can possibly make them. They didn’t ask to be here… I CHOSE to have them. And now I choose to share with them as abundantly as I possibly can. I want them to enjoy life, to embrace life, and to know that it is full of possibilities. I want them to know that they are heard and respected and a valued member of the family. I want them to know that they can do anything and be anything that they desire.
But come on, you argue, sometimes you have to say no. Of course: sometimes safety, logistics, or respect for others precludes a “yes.” But all too often a parent’s default response is” no” for no good reason. We’re too tired. It’s too messy. It’s inconvenient. We don’t feel like it. And besides, we reason, it’s good for them. Kids need to hear the word no! How else will they learn to handle it when they hear it later? Won’t they have a hard time accepting it?
Actually, kids who aren’t given arbitrary “nos” tend to be very accepting of the necessary ones. When I tell my children “no”, they know that there’s a reason for it, and they respect it. But my life, and theirs, became infinitely better the day I decided to start saying “yes” more often. And the more yeses that they hear, the better equipped they are to deal with the occasional nos.
Because I’m not arguing that there won’t be some inevitable ‘nos’ in life: Of course there are nos, from small to large: “No, you can’t come in the store barefoot.” “No, you didn’t get the job as there was someone more qualified.”
I would argue that the ones who are best able to deal with it are those that are happy, confident, and fully engaged in life. Those who realize that life is living, and that it is full of choices. People who are secure and well-adjusted don’t have a problem with a “no shirts, no shoes, no service” rule (or any kind of logical rule for that matter). People who are confident and self-assured don’t let one potential employer’s rejection stop them from pursuing their dreams.
I don’t give my children arbitrary nos just because I can. (I also don’t steal their things, drop them in the wilderness, take them to the hospital, or treat them unkindly.) What I do do, is treat them the way that I’d like to be treated. I treat them in such a way that they are growing up happy, and confident, and self-assured… so that when those inevitable bumps in life do come, they can say, “You know what? I can handle this.”
And it starts with saying yes.
Life is short. Life is so short! We’re not guaranteed another day with our children. We’re not guaranteed another hour with our children. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have the regret of not giving enough to my children when I had the chance…. not enough of my time, not enough of my attention, not enough of ME. This is it. This is the time we’ve been given.
If you’re reading this, I want you to do something. If your child asks you to do something today that you’d normally say no to, if there’s no real reason to say no (and there probably isn’t), just this once,
JUST SAY YES.